Technology Induced Stress
Running Head: TECHNOLOGY INDUCED STRESS ON EDUCATORS
Technology Induced Stress on Educators in a Secondary Educational Setting
March 18, 2009
Although technology is often regarded as a valuable tool for education, few studies have been conducted to explore the effects of technology induced stress on secondary school educators. This qualitative research study provided an opportunity to examine the levels of stress educators may experience while employing various technologies in the classroom. This study was used to determine the primary factors that led to findings that distinguished the amount of stress as a result of having to learn, implement, and access technologies. For this study, six participants were surveyed and were asked to respond to a ten item questionnaire. Following the survey, post-interviews were conducted to help regulate short and neutral responses. The main study results are as follows; first, the use of technologies increase educators’ stress levels. Second, there was no obvious correlation between participants’ ages and teaching experiences and that of technology induced stress. Third, technostress, which is defined as stress caused by the use of technology, does not affect the educator’s pedagogical practices, although it does alter the technological learning environment. Technology can be used to enhance the relationship between the student and the teacher, but it must not be implemented as a substitute for the teacher. The teacher is the conductor that mitigates the technologies in classroom.
General Statement of the Problem
The purpose of this study was to assess how prevalent stress induced by technology affected educators in a secondary classroom context. If so, it will be able to determine whether technology alleviates or exacerbates educator stress and the implication it has on their teaching practices. A questionnaire with ten questions was given to six secondary educators within the Inland Empire, with all six having returned the surveys. Next, post interviews were conducted following the initial completion of the survey. Then the information was gathered to determine if technology usage was significantly impacting levels of stress on educators in the secondary classroom setting.
As education adapts to the growing technological society, it is important to recognize that as educators try to keep up with technology, there may be influential factors that prevent them from fully utilizing the effectiveness of technology itself. Through research this study was inspired to find peer reviewed articles that illuminated the relationship between stress and technology employed in the educational setting. The articles reviewed have been subdivided into three major categorical themes that highlight and support the idea that stress induced by technology can help or hinder a teacher’s instructional techniques.
Many educational findings support the idea that the teacher is the number one aspect needed to help students become successful learners. Technology can be used as a medium to help teachers improve the effectiveness of their instruction. The teacher is the main conductor needed to integrate the technology into the classroom. Many times the responsibility of implementing technology into the classroom can become another variable that can either add or subtract to the levels of stress as a professional educator. “Some educators see the infusion of new technology as a blessing, but for others technology is yet another contributor to stress and strain” (Voakes, Beam & Ogan, 2003, p. 312). In 1984 the term “technostress”, was coined “a modern disease of adaptation caused by an inability to cope with the new computer technologies in a healthy manner.” It would later be elaborated to : “any negative impact on attitudes, thoughts, behaviors or body psychology caused directly or indirectly by technology” (Voakes et al., 2003, p. 312). Based on recent studies, technostress was found when teachers were unable to deal with “technological errors (e.g. network and software), increased work demands; and where teachers were not able to make effective use of technology in the classroom because of the lack of appropriate pedagogic preparation” (Al-Fudail & Mellar, 2008, p. 1109). Through review of the research literature of educators who were participants in studies that reported findings on technology induced stress, researchers discovered that there were four main sources that caused increased levels of stress. The first problem educators found with technological stress was the amount of time taken up in using technology whether it is for preparation, explanation, or installation. The second cause of stress was related to actual reliability of the technological devices. The third concern that teachers had with technology was the lack of technical support needed to use technology in teaching. Lastly, educators found that having to learn new technologies would require too much of a change in their curriculum. Therefore, “Inadequate training, insufficient human and physical resources, and resistance to change are critical factors that have created disillusionment about the prospects of technology use among many teachers” (Glazer, 2004, p. 115). Some may even claim to need at least five years minimum of training in technology before they can effectively integrate it into their instruction. Research shows that “with computer competence, teachers’ anxiety decreases and their attitudes towards computers improves with hands-on computer literacy courses” (Muir-Herzig, 2003, p. 115). Most educators seem to feel they are learning technologies continually, “but that they need more help in learning them” (Voakes, 2003, p. 331).
Any resource in the classroom impacts the dynamics of the student teacher relationship. Technology can be seen as a either an inhibitor or contributor the interaction that takes place in the classroom. The most basic technology used in the classroom would be the computer. “Computers are being used, in part, to enable teachers to improve the curriculum and enhance student learning” (Muir-Herzig, 2003, p. 114), thus establishing technological stability. Stability is key in any relationship and is always dependent upon the educator’s motivation to be consistent. The teacher’s “motivation” and “rationale” to continue “creating technology-enhanced activities” can become an “integral component in his/her development” (Glazer, 2004, p. 130). Educators are motivated when tools and resources work well to help their students succeed. Educators reported that technology gave them the opportunity to design “lessons that are more student-centered and constructivist, allowing for less lecturing and more facilitating or guiding students in the learning process” (Dunleavy, Dexter & Heinecke, 2007, p. 441). Technology has been reported favorably with statements that reflect positive impacts despite the fact that studies show significant amounts of stress. However, teachers who “successfully learned to use a variety of technology tools in a workshop setting still needed additional support to concretize their applicability to his/her students’ learning” (Glazer, 2004, p. 135).
It is vital that the learning environment be supportive of the students it is serving. It is important to note the environment can alter the class climate. Research shows that “Technology can help facilitate the knowledge-constructed classroom” (Muir-Herzig, 2003, p. 113). Teachers need to be flexible with the technology that they are using in the learning environment. Studies show that two factors can influence a teacher to “feel empowered to integrate technology in accordance with the design of investigations and learning environments” (Glazer, 2004, p. 117). The first factor is the educator’s own instructional design and the second factor is the teacher’s ability to incorporate his or her learning values. Often times, educators feel that they are working in an environment that is too technologically demanding. Second, educators feel that they do not receive enough technical support which is a repetitive theme throughout the literature reviews. As educators demonstrate efforts to integrate technology, “teachers need to consider how technology can be effectively used while balancing a variety of factors, including curriculum, software, resources, time, and students’ learning” (Glazer, 2004, p. 117). A teacher may become stressed when there is a “discrepancy between his/her characteristics and the characteristics of the technological environment he/she is working in” (Al-Fudail et al., 2008, p. 1104). Research supports the notion educators need three basic things in order to feel confident and relieve stress induced by technology. Educators need “awareness, autonomy, and confidence” in order to create a significant influence on the learning environment that is designed with technology in mind. “It is important to acknowledge that the mere presence of technology-rich environment is not sufficient for enhanced teaching and learning or added value” (Dunleavy et al., 2007, p. 442), but that the teacher should be aware of the technology within the classroom. They should be able to demonstrate a pedagogical awareness of the positive impact technology can have on the success of his or her students’ abilities to learn and process the content delivered.
We are assuming teachers have opportunities to utilize technology in their teaching practices. Another assumption that needs to be considered is that the use of technology influences teachers. Lastly, we are basing this research study on the belief that the teachers’ stress (or lack thereof) impacts/influences students.
Problems that we foresaw as a variable that could negatively impact the research conducted included the size of participant group being surveyed. Secondly, having given questionnaires to educators to complete, there could be a contrast between the answers reported and the actual implementation, thus resulting in self reporting biases. Lastly, we felt that the lack of formal/informal observations of the educator interacting with the students would not be comparable to the post interview with the educators that were the subjects of our study..
Skills to teach technology
Significance of Proposed Study
In order to facilitate competitive teaching and instructional strategies the teaching profession is expected to implement and improve effectiveness through the use of daily technologies. This use of daily technologies had implications concerning stress within the teaching profession. Therefore, integrating new technology in the classroom requires teachers to be flexible and make adaptations in their instructional strategies as they deem fit (Ogan & Chung, 2003). With this in mind, the study of technology induced stress on the educator in the secondary educational setting was essential in order to gain insight and raise awareness of the cyclical relationship of the teacher-learner process. The significance surrounding this study will address and/or combat the stressors associated with “technostress”. Thus the acknowledgement of the “existence of technostress is an important step in beginning to cope with the problem” (Al-Fudail et al., 2008, p. 1109).
The questionnaire was given to six secondary schools teachers, five of which were females and one male. Of the six teachers that responded, none fell under the age of twenty-two. Two of the teachers fell in between the ages of twenty-two and twenty-nine and three were between the ages of thirty and forty. One participant was over the age of forty.
Of our participants all obtained a Bachelor’s degree, while five of the participants had acquired a Master’s degree. All of the teachers have been teaching for more than three years, while the teacher with the most experience reported teaching for over ten years.
Each researcher chose a secondary school teacher to complete the ten item questionnaire and demographics page. In addition, each researcher conducted a post interview to glean additional insight into the reported answers. The questionnaire itself consisted of ten questions that were divided into three subcategories. The categories included the effects of stress related to technology as reported from educators in the last seven years, the impact technology usage has on the relationship between the student and the teacher, and the implication of technology on the learning environment. The categories were unbeknownst to the participants. See appendix II for a copy of the questionnaire. One advantage of this study was the ease in which it was administered. Another advantage was the “user friendly” format of the questionnaire. Moreover, the post interview provided greater details about the participants’ responses. Disadvantages included the small sample size and possible self reporting biases.
As part of the credential program educators are instructed and encouraged to use technology in the classroom. It is also a professional standard that technology be used in the educational setting. Therefore, the researchers thought it to be important to study the effects of technology on teacher stress. Stress is the number one factor that concerns educators today. Stress has implications for teacher burnout, as well as, health problems.
After surveying the six participants results found that on average the majority of the teachers polled were familiar with and utilized these types of technology within their classroom setting: PC, Mac, ELMO, PowerPoint, Microsoft, LCD projector, overhead, Internet programs, TV, DVD, laptop, and Smart Board.
The questionnaire contained the following questions that can be categorized into three groups.
I. The effects of stress related to technology as reported from educators in the last 7 years
2. How much time do you devote to using technology as a medium for curriculum?
8. Sometimes technology does not always work when we want it to, or how we want it to, so do you feel that the value and importance of technology outweighs the risks and costs of technology?
10. Does technology help to alleviate your stress or does it add to it in your professional educational setting?
4. Does the technology you use allow you to better meet the needs of the various learning styles in your setting?
7. Do you feel that technology diminishes or benefits the relationship you have with your students?
III. The implication of technology on the learning environments
1. What types of technology do you use on a daily basis?
3. What impact does technology have on the classroom (professional educational setting) space?
5. Does technology add some demonstrable pedagogical value?
6. Do you feel that technology has helped you to grow professionally and develop as an educator?
9. Do you feel that it is in your best interest to keep learning new technology to use as a tool in your classroom, or not because the time spent could be used better elsewhere (i.e. curriculum, parent communication, grading, etc?)
The limitations for the design of this study are inclusive of the foreshadowed problems stated earlier in this research paper. The first limitation that needed to be acknowledged is that of the limited amount of time available to conduct a thorough sample poll of highly qualified participants. Secondly, it is important to note that the participants were not thoroughly investigated or selected through formal observations and previous recommendations. Third, readers need to be aware of the inability to prevent self reporting biases by the participants of the study. Furthermore, the researchers were unable to obtain a larger sample size due to the time restrictions. Lastly, they proposed the notion that the research was slightly skewed due to the diversified interpretations of the open ended questions thus stated on the survey that was disseminated.
Educators have long been concerned with the stress that comes with the occupation. As educators continue to develop professionally, they find themselves trying to continually adapt to the society in which they teach. Educators today face many challenges with the ongoing development of technologies. However, educators should not view technology as a tool for teaching but as a “vehicle for learning”. Teachers will always require some amount of support dependent upon the educators’ own knowledge and motivation to learn and use technology. Some solutions have been offered to educators as a way to cope with technology induced stress. Researchers and data collectors report that educators should “seek out both formal and informal support systems, especially when it appears obvious that a piece of technology can reduce time and effort, to adopt it” ( Voakes et al., 2003, p.332 ). This means that each educator “must learn to determine when technology will make an improvement in the quality of the task at hand, and when it will not” in order to reduce technostress (Voakes et al., 2003, p.332). This research study has provided findings that suggest technology does indeed increase stress levels for secondary educators in a professional classroom setting. Although ,educators reported increased stress levels as a result of utilizing technology, they acknowledged the host of benefits offered if implemented accurately. No results point to a correlation between age and teaching experience in high levels of technostress among educators. Most importantly, this study provides a central idea that technology does not improve or change one’s pedagogy, but can alternatively affect the learning environment, as well as the teacher-student relationship. Much of the data results were inconclusive however, due to the limited sample size used in the research study.
It is recommended that further research be conducted by performing more extensive case studies that can allow a greater in depth exploration of a diversified population of participants. The researchers would also recommend conducting long term observations of the selected case study participants to paint a more accurate portrayal based on their responses and on the reality of the technological environment that they are being asked to instruct in. Ideally, this would work to balance the self-reporting biases that may occur. It is important that subsequent research that is built off of this study should be limited to particular technological devices used by the educators. Lastly, the researchers recommend that a more thorough investigation of the participants should be conducted in order to clarify what training and support services were made available to the subjects. All these variables should be accounted for to retrieve better results.
Appendix I: Demographics
Appendix II: Survey
Al-Fudail, M., Mellar, H. (2008, November). Investigating teacher stress when using
technology. ^ , 51(3), 1103-1110. Retrieved February 18, 2009,
from Academic Search Premier Database.
Dunleavy, M., Dexter, S., & Heinecke, W.F. (2007). What added value dies a 1:1 student to laptop ratio bring to technology-supported teaching and learning? Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 23(5), 440-452. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2729.2007.00227.x
Glazer, E. (2004). From a Caterpillar to a Butterfly: The Growth of a Teacher in Developing Technology-Enhanced Mathematical Investigations. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 12 (1), 115-138.
Liu, T.C. (2007). Teaching in a wireless learning environment. A case study. Educational Technology & Society, 10 (1), 107-123.
Muir-Herzig, Rozalind G. (2003). Technology and its impact in the classroom. Computers & Education 42 (2004) 111-131. Pergamon.
Ogan, C. Chung, C. (2003). Stressed out! A national study of women and men journalism and mass communication faculty; their uses of technology, and levels of professional and personal stress. Journalism and Mass Communication Educator, v57, n 4, p352-368 Win 2003.
Voakes, P., Beam, R., & Ogan, C. (2003, Winter2003). The Impact of Technological Change on Journalism Education: A Survey of Faculty and Administrators. Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, 57(4), 318-334. Retrieved February 15, 2009, from Academic Search Premier database.
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